ST. PAUL, Minn. — A Minnesota researcher is turning to crowdfunding to pay for research of a parasite that kills moose.
Up to 30 percent of moose are killed by the brainworm parasite, which is transmitted through snails and slugs, The Pioneer Press reported.
While the parasite can live in whitetail deer without any ill effects, it’s deadly to moose.
“It’s like they don’t have the right roadmap for the moose,” said Tiffany Wolf, an assistant professor of veterinary population medicine at the University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
The parasite invades a moose’s brain. It debilitates it, making the animal unable to eat or evade predators. The moose and the parasite eventually die.
Wolf has been researching moose in northern Minnesota for several years, primarily with the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. Wolf aims to raise $6,000 to fund her collection of slug and snail DNA in order to determine which types carry the parasite.
Different slugs and snails prefer different types of plants and habitats. Identifying which ones carry the parasite can help biologists and land managers determine what food can be problematic for moose.
“Are there things in the environment that we can manipulate that could reduce the brainworm prevalence? We don’t know,” Wolf said. “It’s a really complex system, and there doesn’t appear to be just one thing killing the moose. In complex systems, there isn’t just one lever to pull.”
There are about 3,700 moose in the state, compared to more than 8,800 moose in 2006, according to a survey by the state Department of Natural Resources.
The moose population has been threatened by warmer weather, wolves, habitat changes, winter ticks, liver flukes and the brainworm parasite.
Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press, http://www.twincities.com